Sunday, August 04, 2013

Truest statement of the week

The authorities of United States have a long history of spying on those who actively participate in the nation's democracy through free speech and other civic and community activities.  Over the years, citizens and the judiciary have tried to rein in state surveillance by asserting First Amendment protections of free speech and Fourth Amendment protections against unreasonable searches and seizures.  From the Palmer Raids through COINTELPRO, periods of perceived national emergency have typically eroded these protections.  Today, a sprawling industry has mushroomed, financed by taxpayer money, ostensibly to protect the nation from terrorism and other threats.  As this industry consolidates and grows, sophisticated surveillance technologies pose new threats to privacy and the right of association. 

-- Heidi Boghosian (National Lawyers Guild Executive Director and co-host of Law and Disorder Radio) from her new book Spying on Democracy: Government Surveillance, Corporate Power and Public Resistance.

Truest statement of the week II

At any rate, the mainstream press corps’ alignment with conservative sources began coming apart in July 2003, as the failure to find so-called WMD in Iraq began to move center stage. In the wake of that embarrassment, the mainstream press began moving away from Bold Leader Bush and his Strong Silent Leadership Style.

For the previous dozen years, they had strongly tended to align with the right, from whom they took their dictation. (Example: In the twenty-month coverage of Campaign 2000, it’s very hard to distinguish mainstream treatment of Candidate Gore from that which emerged on the right.)

Starting in July 2003, this alignment began to dissolve. And so it came to pass: By the spring of 2012, when the national press began to report the killing of Martin, the major organs were willing to take their dictation from “the left.”

In the process, we got yet another hapless product -- another tabloid-inflected, standardized tale. But this time, the fake facts, cloying language and disappeared information all came from voices on “the left.”

This time, the “press corps” farmed out its responsibilities to forces on the left! Handed this responsibility by a deeply irresponsible press corps, we lefties churned the typical reams of bullshit, though we’re still assuring the world that we created “an honest dialogue” about Martin’s death -- that we’ve been “fighting tabloid news with truth-telling investigation and commentary.”

What a manifest pile of crap!

-- Bob Somerby, "DUBLINERS TOO: Skolnik's 'mythical garment!'" (The Daily Howler).

A note to our readers

Hey --
Another Sunday.

First up, we thank all who participated this edition which includes Dallas and the following:

The Third Estate Sunday Review's Jim, Dona, Ty, Jess and Ava,
Rebecca of Sex and Politics and Screeds and Attitude,
Betty of Thomas Friedman Is a Great Man,
C.I. of The Common Ills and The Third Estate Sunday Review,
Kat of Kat's Korner (of The Common Ills),
Mike of Mikey Likes It!,
Elaine of Like Maria Said Paz),
Cedric of Cedric's Big Mix,
Ruth of Ruth's Report,
Wally of The Daily Jot,
Trina of Trina's Kitchen,
Stan of Oh Boy It Never Ends,
Isaiah of The World Today Just Nuts,
and Ann of Ann's Mega Dub.

We thank them all. What did we come up with?

Heidi Boghosian gets a truest.
Bob Somerby does as well.
This could have been a longer editorial but really, a longer editorial on the press reducing Iraq to less than a minute of 'coverage'?  

Ava and C.I.'s instant classic lets you know that not only is The Awesomes anything but, the fact that it is so awful may say something about Seth Meyers and his planned stint (starting next February) as the host of NBC's Late Night with Seth Meyers.
Dona takes a look at a Senate hearing with Ann, Cedric, Wally, Kat, Ava and C.I.
Dona found the photo.  What could we do with it?  Rebecca wondered "steal this look" and we thought about that but Ava and C.I. said "Yes, to the dress!"  We weren't aware of what that meant.  It's a reality show.  So have Susan Rice be the host of her own little reality show.
"Victory for Bradley Manning"?  When he's convicted of 20 out of 22 charges?  Ay-yi-yi.
We found this and thought, "How typical."  On another week, it would be a much longer piece.

Senator Murray press release.
Repost from Workers World.
Senator Murray press release.
Mike and the gang wrote this and we thank them for it. 

We'll see you next week.


-- Jim, Dona, Ty, Jess, Ava and C.I.

Editorial: Media silence

If you missed the news last week, the United Nations counted 1057 violent deaths in Iraq last month, a monthly total not seen since 2008.   As violence continues to worsen in Iraq, the Brookings Institute.  Kenneth M. Pollack offered (PDF format warning) "The Fall and Rise and Fall of Iraq" last week.

But what did the US media offer?

Not much.

In fact, you can see Friday's second hour of The Diane Rehm Show of the sort of 'coverage' of Iraq we're supposed to be grateful.

Diane Rehm:  And in Iraq a wave of car bombs, Elise?

Elise Labott:  A wave of car bombs really raising fears that the sectarian strife that you saw five years ago after the U.S. invasion is really returning. There have been over the last week more than a dozen explosions. July was the deadliest month since 2007, over 1,000 killed, spiked during Ramadan. And all part of this, al-Qaida in Iraq is claiming responsibility for a lot of them, but it's really to sow up, you know, hatred against the Shia-lead government and more bloodshed between Sunni and Shia. 

Diane Rehm:  And let's go back to the phones to Little Rock, Ark. Hi there. Rod.

The entire 'coverage' of Iraq lasted less then 50 seconds.  In one hour of commercial free, public radio, as Iraq descends into ever more violence, we're supposed to be grateful with 50 lousy seconds.

That's disgusting.

Last week, The Voice of Russia's Rob Sachs spoke with Michael O'Brien about the violence and, at the end of the interview, a point was made that really applies:

 At this point, ten years out, Americans are tired of hearing about violence in Iraq, tired of hearing about efforts to stop it, but why should average Americans care at this point?

Well, you know, that's a real good question. Average Americans probably don't, but if you are an American that believes in right and wrong, if you're an American that believes in consequences, if you're an American that believes in the Constitution and also strictly focused on the defense of our country, then you'd be an American that would be going, "Why did we go over there in 03?" And you'd be an American that would be saying not only that, but "No one has been held accountable for us going there." And I'm talking about American leadership.

But questions like that are not answered or even asked when Iraq remains the topic the US media won't address.


Oh, yeah, and protests.  Above is 2011.  It's feeling a lot like 2011 in Iraq.  Friday, saw peaceful Baghdad protesters yet again targeted with beatings and arrests.

And where's the media?

TV: The So-So behind The Mediocres

When we heard that Seth Meyers had at least stumbled a bit at Comic-Con recently when unveiling his new series The Awesomes, we mentioned it to two NBC exes.  One simply insisted that had not happened.  The other was adamant that Seth had not only wowed everyone but The Awesomes was an indicator of how he would wow NBC late night in February when Late Nigh with Seth Meyers takes over Jimmy Fallon's slot while Jimmy slides behind the desk for The Tonight Show.

To state the obvious: Seriously?

the awesomes

The Awesomes is a Hulu exclusive series and the big question there is: Why?

At one point Syfy was going to run with the show but then got cold feet, a few years later it was MTV but they passed as well leaving Hulu with bragging rights -- or maybe shaming rights?

The premise of the animated program is that Prock (voiced by Meyers) is a would-be super hero with the power to freeze time and he's trying to take the lead of The Awesomes -- a super hero team his father had led. His father didn't think to name Prock as a successor, not even when his first and only choice, Perfect Man (voiced by Seth's brother Josh) turns down the honor of leading the team.

Prock is a nothing.  He's tired.  He's boring.  He's just not interesting enough to be a lead.

One example, he has the ability to freeze time.  What does he do with it?

Even his father thinks it's not a super power.  Really?  We seem to remember Holly Marie Combs' Piper kicking some major butt on Charmed with that power.  But then, she used it.  While she had everyone frozen, she was setting up the next move.

Prock 'uses' it to launch into inner monologues and then, when he decides on what he'll say, he unfreezes time and screws up his planned speech.

No wonder his father doesn't think it's a super power.

If Prock is nothing, The Awesomes is even less.

The gay jokes do grow weary.  The first one is when Prock is auditioning members for his team and he's told he should call it try-outs because auditions gives the wrong impressions.  Cut to scene of a flamboyant male onstage performing a song.

This is really where we are in 2013?

Gay people exist to be made fun of?

In 2013, a gay person can't be part of the team?  But can show up for cheap jokes at their own expense?

Women are barely a part of the team.  In fact, until the last five minutes, the team consists of Prock, Muscleman (Ike Barinholtz), Frantic (Taran Killam), Impresario (Kenan Thompson), Tim (Bobby Lee) and Gadget Gal (Paula Pell). Needing one more member, they luck out when Hotwire (Rashida Jones) shows up.  She's invited to join because of her hot body.

Prock ogles her, doesn't care about her powers, just wants her but will settle for her being on the team.

Reminder, the year is 2013.

'Wait! There are two more women!'  Yes, there is Concierge (Emily Spivey) and Joyce Mandrake (Rachel Dratch).  They're not super heroes, they're not team members.  Concierge is a flunky who plays Mommy (usually Mean Mommy), a traditional role.

Joyce? She's fortunate in that Dratch's voicing resulting in so much more than what's on the written page.  Rashida Jones and Ike Barinholtz also deserve praise for their voice work.

It's 2013 and the sole African-American character sounds just like his mother -- because Kenan Thompson voices both Impresario and Impresario's 'sassy' mother.  Yes, it's time to put the African-American male yet again into a dress.

While it's clear why two networks walked away from it, it's still not clear why Hulu thought this crap was worth streaming.

In the comments left at Hulu for the first two episodes ("Pilot Part One" and "Part Two"), there's a fierce debate taking place.  Not over whether or not the show's any good.  A little over a majority of those commenting agree the show sucks.  The only debate is as to whether it's ripping off Mystery Men the most or The Venture Brothers or The Incredibles or Scooby Doo or The Legend of Korra.

It was Hulu's 14th most popular series of the week.  That's really not good.  For example, Melissa Joan Hart's Sabrina The Teenage Witch was at number 12.  We're not knocking Sabrina, it was a solid program but it ran from 1996 to 2003 and last week more people were streaming this at Hulu than the new content The Awesomes?  Even with all the promotion for The Awesomes at Hulu?

Maybe that promotion is what ran off viewers?

Long before Sabrina was a live action show, it was a 1970 Saturday morning cartoon on CBS.   31 episodes aired for four years on CBS.  This was produced by Filmation which is not generally seen as an artistic giant but the Filmation shows had much better animation than does The Awesomes.  It has a cheap and 'animation-lite' feel to it.

For example, if you're enemy is a huge mountain of poo, it needs to look like it.  Otherwise, why did you write the character?

About the best thing we can say about the show is that Seth is a much better voice actor than he is a live action actor.  Doing voice work spares America his Ann B. Davis face and a great deal of his Don Knotts style mugging.  At the same time, it also points to just how bland Meyers is.

His writing is bland as well.   The big winner in his move to late night week day TV is Saturday Night Live which has felt increasingly tired in the last years.  Seth has 'written' and overseen the 'writing' of many a bad scene which existed solely to demonstrate that Seth can't parody politics.  He really can't. SNL political jokes in his tenure have been an embarrassment (and very one-sided).  Seth is most comfortable, as a writer, making every skit have a TV setting.  His world's been very limited and it sorely shows.

Which means we may have to review late night in 2014.  Jimmy Fallon was made for late night.  He had the energy that can perk viewers up.  He's got the looks.  He remains the best looking late night host.   Later this year, he turns 39.  And later this year, 'newbie' Seth turns 40.

Yeah, Seth's a little long in the tooth.

David Letterman was 34 when he carved out the time slot.  Conan O'Brien was 30 when he replaced Dave.  At the age of 34, Jimmy Fallon took over from Conan.  At the age of 40,  Seth will be replacing Jimmy?

Seth will also be a year older than Tonight Show host Jimmy.

NBC might need to start worrying.

Comedy is, of course, derivative.

So maybe it's not all that surprising that over at CBS' late night program, there are snickers and comparisons of Seth to an actress and that the same comparison and laughter is being heard from the Jimmy Kimmel staff?

Derivative or not, NBC is aware that Seth repeatedly failed to connect with most audiences, right? That could cause problems in a format where he's required to deliver an opening monologue five days a week.  On his inability to connect with viewers, for most SNL viewers, Seth's best moments come with Stefan (Bill Hader), for many those are the only moments worth remembering. That's especially sad when you grasp that Meyers has been in the show's cast since 2001 (doing bad bits like Nicolette Sheridan impersonations).

If The Awesomes were supposed to put these concerns to rest by presenting Seth in a lead role in an animated series, it's only established him as the most bland member of the cast.  Bland has often been an ideal quality for a talk show host . . . on daytime TV.

But late night has always demanded charisma.  Those without it (Dick Cavette, for example), have failed repeatedly to find audiences while those with it have become TV stars (Jack Parr, Johnny Carson, David Letterman, Joan Rivers, Conan O'Brien, Jay Leno, Jimmy Kimmel and Jimmy Fallon).

Everything on paper about Seth Meyers is supposed to add up to stardom but the reality is that he's the least well known (or liked) Weekend Update anchor ever (Colin Quinn rejoices as he's finally able to hand off that 'honor').  And, again, except for popping his eyes at Bill Hader's Steon, there's really been no moments that seized the country's attention.

Which brings up back to the comparisons the people at Letterman and Kimmel are making, to the actress who supposedly got the break of a lifetime when she joined the cast of a hit TV show but it all failed miserably and led to the king of late night, Johnny Carson, declaring on air, "When Hack's A is put where her T should be, it still doesn't jiggle."

Carson was speaking of Shelley Hack.  The model had found fame in a series of commercials for the perfume Charlie, leading her to be known as "the Charlie girl."  Kate Jackson had left Charlie's Angels after the third season of the show.  Kate had class and the Charlie ads were seen as classy.  And wasn't Hack already crowned "the Charlie girl"?  What a perfect fit!  Until the shows started airing and America rejected Hack as Jaclyn Smith and Cheryl Ladd's co-worker.  Comparing Seth Meyers to Shelley Hack may just be a form of late night rivalry but, then again, it may be an early portent.

Report on Congress


Dona:  Hadn't planned on it, but we are back with another "Report on Congress."  What changed? Last Wednesday's Senate Judiciary Committee hearing which C.I. reported on in "Iraq snapshot," Wally's "THIS JUST IN! RUSS FEINGOLD WHERE ARE YOU NOW!" and Cedric's "Punchline: US Senate" joint-post took on,   Ava reported on the hearing in "Blumenthal disappoints (Ava)," Wally in ""Leahy and Feinstein are disgraces," Ann in "The Senate Judiciary Committee hearing" and Kat in "The Constitution has been shredded."  For the discussion, I'm  joined by Ann, Ava, Cedric, C.I., Kat and Wally who attended the hearing.  This will be a quick roundtable. Cedric, I'd like to start with you because you and Wally do joint-posts, they are humorous posts.  And they generally take on items in the news.  Instead, this post was a blistering and biting commentary on the Senate.  Talk a little about the thinking of that.

Cedric:  Sure.  Well the hearing was scheduled and I knew Ann was getting crazy, we've just had a baby and she's on family leave, so I mentioned the hearing and she was interested in it.  But the hearing got move up in terms of time of day and so we're scrambling because we didn't realize that.  So Wally and I decided to forget about doing our usual morning post.  We were pretty sure we wouldn't do a post that day, we'd double up later or just be one short.  But then we went to the hearing and we were just so appalled.  We were talking about the Senate and how it refused to stand up for the Constitution.  And that's when we decided we needed to do a post on the topic, to express our outrage and to make it clear how badly the Senate Judiciary Committee performed that day.

Dona: Alright, thank you for that.  The Senate Judiciary Committee was holding a hearing on the spying.  Kat, why?

Kat: Because they'd refused to do so and the House was doing its job and holding hearings -- the House Judiciary Committee held an infamous hearing last month where Democrats and Republicans were shoulder-to-shoulder on how outrageous and unacceptable the spying on every American was.  The Senate Committee was a huge disappointment, a lackluster moment where the participants appeared unaware of the Constitution. 

Dona: Which would specifically be the Fourth Amendment regarding Americans protection from search and seizure. 

Cedric: Right.  Instead, we've learned, via the revelations of NSA whistle-blower Ed Snowden.  It's spying on all Americans.  It includes, but is not limited to, the government obtaining "mega data" on every American's phone calls. 

Kat: Yes, and that data Cedric's talking about is the information on who you called and how long you were on the phone with the person.  There's also the going through of e-mails and much more.  A great deal to be outraged by.

Dona: But, Wally, where is the outrage?

Wally: In the House.  US House Rep. John Conyers did a great job at the House Judiciary Committee hearing. 

Dona: That's the July 18th hearing.  For coverage, you can see C.I.'s  "Iraq snapshot,"  Ava's  "Officials disrespect House Judiciary Committeem,"  C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot," Kat's "FISA rulings,"  Wally's "Proof that we should be thanking Ed Snowden (Wally)" and  C.I.'s  "House Judiciary Committee hearing."  You can also see it in "Report on Congress" from last week.  Wally, you wrote of Conyers standing up last week, at that hearing, and at the caving going on at the hearing last week.

Wally: If I could pull one person off the Committee, it would be Senator Dianne Feinstein.  She is the Chair of the House Intelligence Committee.  In that role, she failed.  She failed repeatedly and she failed over and over.  That may be why she covers for the unconstitutional program today.  It may not be.  But she needs to exit the Judiciary Committee.

Dona: She's not the chair of this committee, though.

Wally: No, that's the shameful Patrick Leahy.  Chuck Grassley is the Ranking Member.

Dona: Ava, you were disappointed as well -- by many.  Among those you found disappointing was Senator Richard Blumenthal.

Ava: He's been good on some issues.  He was lousy on this one.  He was all about excuses and how to 'fix' the problem but he doesn't really see a problem.  In 2009 and 2010, when we attended hearings, we'd frequently attend a House Veterans Affairs Subcommittee hearing Chaired by John Hall.  He'd make everyone rise and say the pledge of allegiance.  I'm not joking.  I like Hall but I didn't see the point in that.  That said, maybe it's time to have the Congress start every hearing by reading the Bill of Rights -- the first ten amendments to the Constitution.  That way they might actually grasp what it says.

Dona: C.I.?
C.I.: What is taking place in unconstitutional.  That's  a point John Conyers made in the July 17th hearing.  He's correct.  And when something's unconstitutional, you end it.  The Senate Committee hearing last week was an embarrassment as multiple senators failed to talk about how we end this spying on the American people and instead focused on how to keep these programs but try to make them legal.  It was disgusting.  These senators took oaths, they swore to uphold the Constitution.  They should all be embarrassed and ashamed. And it was really appalling to watch people try to find 'fiery' moments to report on from the hearing and ignore the real point of the hearing which is that the Senate Judiciary Committee has accepted the spying as necessary, needed and wanted.  The American people don't think so.  The House doesn't think so.  It was really appalling to watch.

Dona:  Ann, this was your first hearing to attend.

Ann: Correct.  And, as I said in my post, I was expecting some grandeur and I don't know what.  I found a hearing room that was dirty, dusty and had tears in the carpet.  Likewise, I found the senators to be dirty, old and shredded.  I'm a Green, not a Democrat.  And to me, the state of the room was indicative of what happens when we buy into the myth that a duopoly is good for us.  It's not.  And as the Democrats and Republicans become more and more alike, we suffer more and more from the duopoly. 

Dona: I'd recommend everyone read the reports the community did if you haven't already.  I did follow the press coverage.  It was limited.  It was also ignoring the reality that the Committee is embracing the spying.  This is a rush transcript.

Old Coot In The Suit

Around the world, Susan Rice is known as a War Hawk who has multiple orgasms at the sight of blood from a fresh kill but what most people don't know is that she once aspired to be the world's worst fashion designer.  She even started a business with a friend, I Love Ugly, but a bitter dispute over which partner loved ugly more led to Susan walking away from it all.

Until . . .


WE TV came calling.  Now Susan's lousy taste is being used for the misfortune of others via her new reality series Old Coot In The Suit.

Each week, Susan Rice grabs a fashion disaster and attempts to turn it into a full fledged fashion catastrophe.

On the series debut, Rice utilizes her bad taste on special guest star Vice President Joe Biden.

"I have a speech to give where I'm going to be lying to the American people about the illegal spying," Biden explains, "and I thought I'd just utter one of my charming non-sequitors throughout to distract but Susan told me that a butt-ugly outfit would be even better, grabbing focus and allowing me to recite a speech that's now on the record but that no one will really here."

"Butt-ugly is a trademark," Susan Rice laughs.  "I'm deadly serious.  I've used butt-ugly throughout my life.  I was probably four the first time I looked in a mirror and realized what butt-ugly was.  Ever since, it's been my greatest tool.  If I can make the world just a little bit uglier, I will feel I have done my job.  In fact, if I can make just one person a little bit uglier, I will feel I have done my job."

Fashion-nasty Rice shared a few "Must Do Don'ts" with us:

1) A men's suit can never have too many buttons.  If you're jacket sports less than 13, sew some on the lapels.

2) Colors should be bright and burn the eyes.  Pimps have the right idea!

3) You should never debate Pinstripes or Patterns when buying a new suit.  Find a tailor who can mix the two!

Old Coot In The Suit premiers Monday, August 5th.

Dunce of the Week: Matthew Rothschild


This week, the dunce cap goes to Matthew Rothschild, editor of The Progressive.

Whistle-blower and Iraq War veteran Bradley Manning was convicted in a military court-martial last week of 20 of the 22 counts against him leaving him potentially sentenced to over 100 years in prison.  (The sentencing portion of the court-martial is ongoing.)

Leave it to Mad Matty Rothschild to show up exclaiming "Victory for Bradley Manning!"

Matty was thrilled that the "aiding the enemy" charge was tossed.  That was good news . . . for the press.

(If the charge stuck, there was a possibility that it would have impact on civilian courts and the impact would be that the press could be charged with aiding the enemy merely for reporting.)

For Brad?


Not a victory.

Life expectancy for the American male is currently 76.2 years.   And life expectancy is even shorter in prison.  Brad is 25-years-old.  Facing potentially 100 years in prison or more is not a "victory" for Brad.

Rothschild earned the dunce cap.

The Hate Merchant of Twitter

88-year-old Lila Garrett has found a new outlet to peddle her hate: Twitter.

Can an elderly crank and new media converge?

Yes, and it's very, very ugly.

  • Trayvon Martin is dead and so is justice. Their killer is a racist who was set free by a jury of 6 white women. Inequality won again.

  • Leave it to a pushy, White, New Yorker (where Lila hails from) to spew so many lies.

    Tryavon Martin is dead.  She got that right.  Justice isn't dead.  In fact, it's got more life in it than Lila has in her.  The jury considered the evidence presented.  That's what they ruled on.

    George Zimmerman has never been proven to be a racist but when you're an old woman who has turned on your Jewish faith, hates the whole world and has nothing to live for while clinging on to each day, you really need to spew your hate and Lila spews non-stop.

    A jury of six White women?

    More lies from Lila.

    In fact, that's what she should call her sad radio program: More Lies From Lila.

    It would certainly explain her nonstop worship of Barack Obama while she claims to be opposed to war and opposed to corporatism and so much more.

    But nothing explains why KPFK continues to allow her to lie on the public airwaves.

    Senator Patty Murray tackles assault in the military

    Senator Patty Murray is the Chair of the Senate Budget Committee and her office issued the following last week:

    FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                                            CONTACT: Murray Press Office
    Tuesday, July 30, 2013                                                                                          (202) 224-2834

    MILITARY SEXUAL ASSAULT: Murray Meets With Top Air Force Official

    WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) met with Air Force Major General Margaret H. Woodward to discuss the epidemic of sexual assault in our nation’s armed forces. In June, Maj. Gen. Woodward was named the Director of the Air Force Sexual Assault Prevention and Response (SAPR) Office. In May, Senators Murray and Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) introduced the bipartisan Combating Military Sexual Assault Act to provide trained military lawyers, also known as Special Victims Counsels (SVCs), to victims of sexual assault in all service branches. This legislation has been included in the pending National Defense Authorization Act, which is expected to be considered by the full Senate in the coming months. The SVC program is based on a successful pilot program currently implemented in the Air Force.
    “Our legislation to provide victims with a dedicated legal counsel absolutely gets to the heart of effectively addressing the tragic epidemic of sexual assault in our military,” said Senator Murray. “When our best and our brightest put on a uniform and join the United States Armed Forces, they do so with the understanding that they will sacrifice much in the name of defending our country and its people. However, it’s unconscionable to think that entertaining unwanted sexual contact from within the ranks is now part of that equation. Special Victims’ Counsels are a major step forward in reversing this awful trend and establish the necessary means for victims to take action against their attackers. It’s inexcusable for us to wait any longer to address this issue and I’m glad we have a willing partner in Major General Woodward to start taking meaningful action to do right by our nation’s heroes.”

    In a statement endorsing the Murray-Ayotte SVC legislation, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Martin Dempsey said, “The Air Force Special Victims’ Counsel (SVC) pilot program, while very new, has shown positive results and provides a robust support program for victims of sexual assault.  Hundreds of victims have availed themselves of SVC services in the Air Force in just the past several months since it was implemented.  Many of those victims who initially filed restricted reports of sexual assault decided to change their report to unrestricted, allowing full investigation of the offenses committed by their assailant.  As the early reports have been so promising, I expressed in my May 20, 2013, letters to Senators Levin and Inhofe that the proposed SVC legislation had merit. I support providing victims of sexual assault this important resource.

    Meghan Roh
    Press Secretary | New Media Director
    Office of U.S. Senator Patty Murray
    Mobile: (202) 365-1235
    Office: (202) 224-2834


    Syria (Sara Flounders)

    Repost from Workers World:

    Syria: U.S. war policy at a crossroads

    By on July 31, 2013 » Add the first comment.

    Despite CIA coordination of training operations in Jordan and safe havens in Turkey and despite countless reports in the corporate media of the imminent surrender of a panicked Syrian government, the more than two-year intense effort to overthrow the Syrian government of President Bashar al-Assad is collapsing.
    This does not mean that the threat of a wider war has vanished. No, the Pentagon’s response to the humiliating defeats of the forces they have spent large amounts of funds recruiting, training and equipping is to float plans for a long-term war with the goal of partitioning Syria into nonviable parts. As the July 22 New York Times reported, Washington is preparing for “the long-term reality of a divided Syria,” of which Assad would only control a “rump portion.”

    In a July 23 letter to the Senate Armed Services Committee, Joint Chiefs Chair Gen. Martin Dempsey outlined five escalating military options to overthrow the government of Syria. These already planned options include sending U.S. troops as “trainers”; strikes on Syria’s air, ground, missile defense and naval forces; and imposing “no-fly zones.” Other options include establishing buffer zones and sending in thousands of troops to “secure chemical weapons.”

    Dempsey’s blunt letter acknowledged that all these military options risk a wider war, tens of thousands of lives and long-term U.S. involvement. Most scenarios “could also average well over one billion dollars a month.”

    The many Pentagon plans are under intense discussion in Washington because the more than 1,200 bands of mercenaries funded and equipped by U.S. arms, supplied through Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Turkey and several other NATO countries, are now in almost total disarray.

    The effort to overturn the Syrian government predates the uprising in the Arab world known as the Arab Spring. According to the April 16, 2011, Washington Post, the U.S. had quietly funded right-wing Syrian opposition groups since at least 2005.

    Despite all U.S.-NATO efforts to cobble together a unified military command, they were never able to go beyond developing a collection of marauding bands. Despite their failures, the House and Senate Intelligence Committees have given a green light to publicly arm these forces, while continuing the thinly veiled flow of U.S. arms via Qatar and Saudi Arabia.

    Opposition lacks program & support

    Behind the opposition’s imminent defeat is its absence of popular support. The Free Syrian Army and the religious sectarian groups have been incapable of providing for the social needs of the population in the areas they occupied, not even to sustain bread lines or organize basic medical needs. They mobilize only through fear, focused on intensifying sectarian differences.

    Even the corporate media report the extreme disarray of the reactionary forces that are largely uncoordinated bands, increasingly bogged down in local turf wars for lucrative control of towns and cities.

    Mercenaries, privateers and criminal gangs from many countries have flooded into Syria to take part in the looting of equipment and cars that can be spirited over borders, cashing in on paychecks for fighters, and kidnapping and ransoming business people.

    Other forces flooding into Syria have a totally reactionary and religious agenda of intolerance and sectarian war that the Syrian population abhors. Because they can’t defeat the government, the competing groups are now selling their own weapons, looting weapons from opposing bands, and executing competing fighters and civilians, including children, to instill fear.

    Widely publicized videos of bloody executions, along with decapitations, the eating of human hearts, the use of torture, and increasing bombings of civilian targets such as schools and marketplaces, have confirmed the thoroughly reactionary nature of these forces.

    Top United Nations envoy Leila Zerrougui, special representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, reported to the U.N. that many children between the ages of 15 and 18 have been recruited from other countries and brought to Syria to fight, in violation of international conventions banning the recruitment of child soldiers.

    Syrian rebels have sent children into combat and used boys as young as 14 to transport weapons and supplies, according to a June 22 Human Rights Watch report.

    Of the 6.8 million people displaced or made into refugees, 70 percent are women and children. Over 3 million children are in desperate need of humanitarian aid.

    A U.S.-NATO effort at imposing a unified political coalition of a government-in -exile of well-financed expatriates living in comfort has met with similar failure. Contentious and disconnected individuals and groups have refused to even meet in the same room.

    People’s militias back gov’t

    Throughout the country, the reactionary bands have run up against local defense groups and people’s militias, which have helped to turn the tide. SANA, the Syrian Arab news agency, has highlighted efforts such as those of the Palestinian Popular Committees that cleared several neighborhoods of the al-Yarmouk refugee camp, warning the armed terrorist groups to surrender or leave the camp.

    The militias are now organized under a structure called the National Defense Forces to defend their own neighborhoods. Many of the militias sprung up spontaneously to defend their areas against sectarian forces, criminal gangs, car bombs and kidnappings. A New York Times article on July 21 described the militias that patrol the “Old City” neighborhood of Damascus to protect a diversity of peoples who have existed there in harmony for hundreds of years.

    Government forces have rolled back rebel gains near Damascus, the capital; in Aleppo, a major city close to the border with Turkey; and in central Homs province. Hezbollah militia forces from Lebanon aided in the complete defeat of rebels in al-Qasr, a strategic transit and logistics point near the Lebanese border, which had been controlled by the opposition since the beginning of the war.

    Washington’s goal in Syria was to pull down another country that had for decades attempted an independent economic and political course. The country had full literacy and the highest education standards and lowest infant mortality in the region.

    Most importantly, Syria was the only remaining country in the Arab world that was not drowning in debt to U.S. and Western banks, which to Wall Street is the greatest crime. Many of Syria’s key industries are still nationally owned.

    After the collapse of the Soviet Union and the U.S. wars in Iraq, the Syrian government had tried to reach an accommodation with Western corporate power by agreeing to privatize part of many industries and to cut basic subsidies. Now, under pressure of an imposed war economy and extreme sanctions from the U.S., European powers and the monarchies of the Gulf States, Syria has reorganized parts of the economy. Many of the unpopular economic decisions are being reversed.

    Articles copyright 1995-2013 Workers World. Verbatim copying and distribution is permitted in any medium without royalty provided this notice is preserved.

    Special Victims Counsels

    Senator Patty Murray is the Chair of the Senate Budget Committee and her office issued the following last week:

    FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                                            CONTACT: Murray Press Office
    Thursday, August 01, 2013                                                                                    (202) 224-2834

    Murray Special Victims Counsels Receive Full Funding
    Senate Defense Appropriations bill includes $25 million for trained military lawyers to help victims of sexual assault take action against attackers
    WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, the Senate Defense Appropriations Committee approved $25 million to fully fund Senator Patty Murray’s (D-WA) Special Victims Counsels (SVCs) program aimed at providing victims of military sexual assault, in all branches, with a trained lawyer to guide them through the legal process. The House of Representatives has also approved full funding for the SVC program in their Department of Defense spending legislation. In May, Senators Murray and Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) introduced the bipartisan Combating Military Sexual Assault Act, which has been included in the pending National Defense Authorization Act.
    “I’m pleased this bill supports several important initiatives, starting with expanding the highly successful Special Victims’ Counsel program across the whole military,” said Senator Murray.  “The SVC program will provide victims of sexual assault with the legal assistance they need to pursue justice and be protected from retaliation, while getting to the heart of effectively addressing this tragic epidemic. Thank you to Chairman Durbin and Ranking Member Cochran for their leadership in putting forward a strong, bipartisan Defense appropriations bill that puts a priority on tackling this scourge within the ranks.”

    “We include $25 million in this bill to implement their great idea of a Special Victims Counsel program across all services to address the issues of sexual harassment,” said Chairman Dick Durbin during the hearing. “The Air Force has good program.  We’re going to incorporate this across the services with the $25 million here. I think this will have a greater positive impact than many of the other issues that are being debated that should make our military more welcoming.”

    In a statement endorsing the Murray-Ayotte SVC legislation, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Martin Dempsey said, “The Air Force Special Victims’ Counsel (SVC) pilot program, while very new, has shown positive results and provides a robust support program for victims of sexual assault.  Hundreds of victims have availed themselves of SVC services in the Air Force in just the past several months since it was implemented.  Many of those victims who initially filed restricted reports of sexual assault decided to change their report to unrestricted, allowing full investigation of the offenses committed by their assailant.  As the early reports have been so promising, I expressed in my May 20, 2013, letters to Senators Levin and Inhofe that the proposed SVC legislation had merit. I support providing victims of sexual assault this important resource.

    The Senate Defense Appropriations legislation also addresses Senator Murray’s priorities to continue oversight of the struggling integrated electronic health record system, funding for Army National Guard Behavioral Health programs, and includes $10 million for the Office of Suicide Prevention.
    Meghan Roh
    Press Secretary | New Media Director
    Office of U.S. Senator Patty Murray
    Mobile: (202) 365-1235
    Office: (202) 224-2834



     This piece is written by Rebecca of Sex and Politics and Screeds and Attitude, Cedric of Cedric's Big Mix, Kat of Kat's Korner, Betty of Thomas Friedman is a Great Man, Mike of Mikey Likes It!, Elaine of Like Maria Said Paz, Ruth of Ruth's Report, Marcia of SICKOFITRADLZ, Stan of Oh Boy It Never Ends, Ann of Ann's Mega Dub, Isaiah of The World Today Just Nuts and Wally of The Daily Jot. Unless otherwise noted, we picked all highlights.

    "Tough Talk For The Left (Ava and C.I.)" -- most requested highlight of the week by readers of this site. 

    Isaiah's The World Today Just Nuts "Jobs" -- Isaiah weighs in on the jobs issue.

    "Iraq snapshot,"  "The Senate Judiciary Committee hearing," "Blumenthal disappoints (Ava),"  "Leahy and Feinstein are disgraces," "The Constitution has been shredded," "THIS JUST IN! RUSS FEINGOLD WHERE ARE YOU NOW!" and "Punchline: US Senate" -- C.I., Ann, Ava, Wally, Kat and Cedric report on the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing.

    "David Westin is a creep" and  "The embarrassing Bob Orr of CBS News" -- Betty and Ruth hold the press accountable.

    "Ron Wyden" -- Mike notes Wyden on spying.

    "Easy Pasta and Tomato Sauce in The Kitchen" -- garden producing tomatoes?  Trina's got a recipe for you.

    "The Baha'i in Iraq" -- Betty notes a segment of Iraqi society.

    "lynne stewart" -- Rebecca notes the latest on Lynne Stewart.

    "Kathy Bates tells it like it is," "Mistresses' 'All In'," "Mistresses: All In" and "Cancel Parks and Recreation already" -- Marcia, Ruth and Stan cover TV. 

    "Non-expert Elizabeth Dibble lies for the proseuction"  -- Kat notes some reality.

    "The Heat (again)" -- Stan goes to the movies.

    "Patrick Leahy is an idiot"  -- Elaine notes a ridiculous member of the Senate.

    "More lies about The Drone War get exposed" -- Mike follows The Drone War.

    "Where are the jobs?" and "THIS JUST IN! JOBS DON'T MATTER!"  -- Wally and Cedric take on Barack's non-performance.

    "DC" -- Ann offers some impressions on the DC.

    "Dave Lindorff and an Orange Tabby" -- Trina tackles two topics.

    "can they just let us have our food?" -- Rebecca wonders when does it end?
    "The Nail Biter" -- Isaiah digs into the archives.

    "Ed gets asylum and we get good news at last" -- Mike on the temporary asylum.

    "Iraq snapshot,"  "Is Matthew Rothschild insane?," "On writing," "Cable's lack of interest in the Bradley verdict," "The verdict," "I don't see this as a victory" and "Brad" -- some of the community coverage of the verdict in Bradley Manning's court-martial.

    "Detroit" -- Trina on the efforts to destroy Detroit.

    "anthony weiner" -- Rebecca on the NYC candidate for mayor. 
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